May 212011
 

[Inspired by Arsenio Hall's "Things the Make You Go Hmmm…", Clayton Imoo talks about Canucks-related things that make him go hmmm… You can follow Clay on Twitter at (@canuckclay) or on his website, Clay's Canucks Commentary.]

Hello readers.  My name is Clayton Imoo and I am thrilled to join the talented group of passionate Canucks fans here at the CHB.  I do a regular video-blog called “Clay’s Canucks Commentary” that is featured on Canucks.com and I’m excited to take a different approach for my contributions to this site:  “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…”

If you were at least a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s, then you’ll likely remember The Arsenio Hall Show.  One of Arsenio’s regular features occurred when the host would ponder certain thoughts.  This recurring segment was the inspiration behind C&C Music Factory’s top 10 hit “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” in 1990.

Similarly, I’ll be taking a regular look at the Canucks and aspects of their games that may make us wonder, whether it be a strange play, puzzling coaching decision, or bizarre call for example.

Looking back at the Canucks’ 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks in game 3 of the Western Conference Final, there are certainly a few Things That Make You Go Hmmm…:

  1. If it wasn’t broke, why did you try to fix it?  Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault surprisingly inserted Tanner Glass and Alexandre Bolduc into the line-up for Cody Hodgson and Jeff Tambellini, even after the team’s dominant 7-3 win in game 2.  Perhaps AV anticipated a rougher game and having nightmares about Ben Eager.  Ultimately, Eager didn’t even play and Glass (6:34 TOI) and Bolduc (4:34 TOI) played but not very much.  Granted, the number of Canuck penalties prohibited any type of flow, but Glass and Bolduc didn’t do anything to stand out.  While I don’t agree with AV’s decision to change the lineup, he does have one more Jack Adams award than I have.
  2. Where was the poise and discipline?  Coming into the game, the Sharks were a perfect 3 for 3 on the power play.  In game 3, they scored a couple of quick power play goals in the first period on their way to a 3 for 10 night overall with the man advantage.  These 2 quick goals meant the Canucks were playing a tough game of catch-up just 8 minutes into the game.  It’s clear to me that the tighter a game is called, the worse off the Canucks are.  Whistle-happy referees nullify the Canucks’ aggressive and high-flying style.  So why were the Canucks so undisciplined given both the proficiency of San Jose’s power play and seeing how Ben Eager hurt the Sharks in game 2?
  3. Can you decline a penalty?  The Canucks failed to score on back-to-back 2-man advantages in the second period.  Their futility with 2-man advantages is a great mystery to me, especially given their exceptional talent and that they own the best PP in the league.  This isn’t new. In the regular season, they converted on just 1 of their 9 2-man advantages. Last night, they seemed hesitant to shoot and often took too long to set-up their ideal shot(s).  The Sharks undoubtedly got a lift from killing off the penalties, while the Canucks missed a golden opportunity to get back into the game.  Though before we completely throw the PP under the bus, they at least scored a couple of goals on Jamie McGinn’s 5-minute major in the third period.

It will be interesting to see what the line-up for game 4 will look like given the incomplete marks for Glass and Bolduc and the injuries on the blue line to Ehrhoff and Rome.  It’s looking like Keith Ballard will draw into the line-up for the first time since game 2 of the Nashville series.  I’m not sure why Ballard hasn’t been playing more in the playoffs… yet another thing that makes me go hmmm.

Dec 272010
 

[I Watched This Game is a recurring feature at Pass it to Bulis, the hockey blog that knows who needs the puck. It chronicles the insights and observations of two guys who watched a hockey game. To view all the other wonderful stuff PITB does, visit Pass It To Bulis.]

A couple days ago on Puck Daddy, Justin Bourne wrote about the dreaded post-Christmas game, and suggested that hockey fans “be sure to set [the] DVR for ‘anything but NHL hockey’ on Dec. 26 and 27″ as players work off their Christmas hams and turkeys with lethargic play. Instead, both the Canucks and Oilers came out flying in a fairly wide-open hockey game. The Canucks carried the bulk of the play, out-shooting the Oilers 33-21, but Khabibulin put up a wall, the Oilers were opportunistic with their chances, and the Canucks had to come from behind to win this one.

I wasn’t worried for an instant: as everyone knows, the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey. As soon as the Oilers went up 2-0, I knew the Canucks had this game in the bag. Despite such foreknowledge, I watched this entire game:

  • Last Boxing Day, Jeff Tambellini sat in the press box at Madison Square Garden, a healthy scratch while his New York Islanders eked out an overtime victory against the Rangers. Three nights later, he would get 12:27 of icetime in his first game in three weeks before heading right back in the press box for the next game. In the new year, he would play one game in January, two more in February, and finish the season in and out of the press box, without a goal since November 23rd in Toronto. That offseason, the worst team in the NHL let him walk without much consideration, and they’re probably the only ones who are even remotely sore about it. Tamby got picked up by his hometown team, and his luck changed dramatically. Tonight, he scored a vital goal on his patented high wrister, had another waved off, and buzzed around the offensive and defensive zones making big plays (including a huge backcheck on a 2-on-1). Give the kid credit for an incredible turnaround.
  • The Biggest Idiot Ever award goes to the two fans sitting behind the Oilers’ net in the 1st and 3rd period who couldn’t seem to refrain from banging their hands on the glass ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Pro Tip: when you do that, your team does not get a brief turbo boost.
  • The First Law of Sedinery: if a game is tied late in the third period, and the Sedins have not yet factored into a goal, they’ll soon factor into the game-winner. Both Sedins had strong games, creating multiple scoring chances, including a perfect setup for Andrew Alberts in the slot. Unfortunately, it was a perfect setup for Andrew Alberts in the slot.
  • The fourth line had only one shift after the complete collapse that led to the Oilers’ first goal, leaving both Aaron Volpatti and Alexandre Bolduc with under 5 minutes in total time-on-ice. The only reason Tanner Glass had more is because he was used once in a penalty killing role in the third period. Most, if not all, of the blame has to be given to Volpatti, who completely mishandled a pass from Glass, giving it away to O’Marra at the blueline, then failing to follow O’Marra to the net to prevent him from putting the puck in the open net. We’re only a few games removed from Volpatti scoring his first NHL goal and the fourth line being praised for finally existing, but that is the kind of play that could see Volpatti on a plane to Manitoba.
  • Cory Schneider only made 19 saves tonight, but made several tough stops off of odd-man rushes. It’s dangerous to give a young, hungry team like the Oilers so many odd-man rushes. It’s also dangerous to give slightly older, well-fed players like Ryan Whitney an odd-man rush: Schneider had less of a chance on his goal than Brian Herzlinger with Drew Barrymore.
  • Manny Malhotra had his usual strong defensive game, going an astonishing 83% in the faceoff circle and logging almost 2 minutes of time on the penalty kill, but he also showed some offensive flourish, with 3 shots and an assist. His most impressive moment came towards the end of the second period, just before Tambellini scored, as he split the defense and forced Khabibulin to make a solid save. He just needs a browncoat, pistol, and a more accurate shot to upgrade from Alternate Captain Mal to Captain Mal.
  • With an assist on Tambellini’s goal, Kesler extended his point streak to 7 games. He has 11 points in that span. Only 17 more games and 35 more points to catch Crosby!
  • That said, did Kesler forget how to turn right on the Tambellini goal? After cutting across the blue line to drop the puck, he does a full spin to get back into position for a return feed. A simple right turn would have sufficed. Does he think he’s Derek Zoolander? Perhaps.
  • Speaking of Kesler, both he and Henrik were terrible on faceoffs tonight at 33% and 32% respectively. Against a better team, that could have been disastrous. Meanwhile, Alexandre Bolduc was 100% on draws; too bad he only took 3 of them. Still, Ducer (pronounced “dük-er” and yes, that’s apparently what his teammates call him) is a solid 55.9% for the season.
  • Remember when it was safe to go to the outside on a Canucks defenseman? Remember that? It’s no longer the case. I am happy about that.
  • I’m often hard on Raffi Torres for his poor puck decisions and bizarre pass attempts, but his assist on Samuelsson’s goal was pretty fantastic. Also pretty fantastic? Dr. Doom riding a unicorn. Missing from that replay is Keith Ballard’s excellent work at gaining the blue line and going hard to the net. After getting the puck to the corner, he rotates back to the point, where Mikael Samuelsson was covering him. Samuelsson stealthily glides into the slot and no one thinks to pick him up because of the rotation between he and Ballard. Shorty even yells “There’s Samuelsson!” as if he had no idea where he was either. He was probably hiding under an invisibility cloak.
  • Speaking of Ballard, it’s tempting to yet again question AV’s decisions with time-on-ice as Ballard yet again played under 14 minutes. But when Edler, Ehrhoff, Hamhuis, and Bieksa are playing so well ahead of him and eating up big minutes…well, there’s only so much time to go around. Bieksa-haters may want to argue that Ballard should get his minutes; this wasn’t the game to make that argument.
  • Bieksa’s game-winning goal, seen above, comes unsurprisingly off some fantastic work below the goal-line by Henrik Sedin. Despite being “hauled down” by Taylor Hall, he manages to hook the puck behind the net to Alex Burrows from his back. Burrows smartly waits for Daniel to crash the net before feeding the puck to Bieksa at the point. Bieksa does not have the heavy shot of Edler or Ehrhoff, but he consistently gets his shots on net and manages to thread the needle through the haystack of bodies in front of Khabibulin. It’s a perfect shot: about a foot and a half above the ice, just off the inside post.
Oct 042010
 

[As we approach the start of the NHL regular season, members of the Canucks blogosphere give their two cents about your Vancouver Canucks and address the issues, questions and expectations of the team in their 40th year anniversary.]

Bill Sweatt, Vancouver Canucks

You won’t receive a lot of argument here if you say that this preseason was relatively boring. With a stacked roster, the Canucks had few openings. And of the players fighting for those jobs, no one stood out more than the others.

Still, some players managed to move themselves up or down the Canucks’ depth chart. Alex Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens look like they’re going to make the team’s opening night roster, while Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk played their way down to Manitoba.

In an otherwise uneventful preseason, who did we think made the biggest impression?

J.J.: IMHO, the Sweatt brothers improved their stock considerably this preseason. What Lee lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, smarts and the ability to make the right play and move the puck quickly out of the zone. He’s smaller than the prototypical NHL defenseman, but he showed that he’s not scared to mix it up with the big boys in the corners. Billy obviously has big-league skill and big-league wheels. What he lacks is big-league finish. Much like Mason Raymond did a couple of years ago, hopefully Billy can work on this in Manitoba. I think he’s played himself into consideration to be one of this year’s first call-ups.

Richard: The Canucks have so much depth they don’t need to look at prospects to fill holes this year. That said, Victor Oreskovich’s play in the preseason and the way he’s used his size is something that’s definitely moved him up. The Canucks have lacked bottom-six size for years and Oreskovich, when he eventually makes the team, will be a welcome fit.

Chris: I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Andrew Alberts of all people has helped himself find his way into the 6th or 7th defensive spot. He’s shown that if given the appropriate number of minutes (say five or six.. okay.. maybe a few more), he’s a relatively decent addition to the blueline. If he were ever able to figure out what the word discipline means, and maybe understand how to better use his size in a manner that doesn’t draw the attention of the zebras, he’d be a beast of a player to see in front of you.

Sean from Nucks Misconduct: Alexandre Bolduc and Tanner Glass were terrific. They have earned roster spots. I liked Peter Schaefer more and more as preseason went along, but we shall see what Gillis and company have planned for him soon enough. Brendan Morrison played so well and it’s unfortunate he didn’t make the squad. But, management knows best. I still like the team moving forward.

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